Musings: August 2018

One true gift of God is the tension of struggle:

challenges that come out of nowhere just when you think the coast is clear;
the demon Comparison that threatens to anchor you always in the Desert of Lack;
besetting sins that cycle and re-cycle in a life that resembles an on-going game of Whack-a-Mole.

Up close, the struggle feels overwhelming, but taking one step back so the light of Truth can fall upon the day’s page, it becomes clear that struggle is evidence of life. Paul knew this in his bones, following up his Romans 7 howl (“For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”) with a Romans 8 rallying cry (“If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”).

The struggle is not for nothing.
Watching my grandson’s fervent pursuit of the ducks on Damariscotta Lake is a study in futility, for he is still learning that his feathered friends have the secret weapon of flight –which is not available to him. By contrast, the believer’s pursuit of righteousness is supported by every weapon in the Spirit’s arsenal.

Your struggle is exactly fitted to your soul,
your soul to it exactly fitted.

The mark of a sincere following life is struggle, but we do not struggle alone, and we do not struggle in vain.

The World of Words

Five books read and five books reviewed!

 

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Of course there’s always reading going on behind the scenes, and the number of books that have shown up in my mailbox this month tells me that this must be book launch season! I’ve been sharing my meandering through Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian in Community over on the Living Our Days Facebook page (which, by the way, passed the 500 followers mark this month, so thank you to everyone who gathers there!).Bonhoeffer Listening

Now I’m moving on to C.S. Lewis’s The Weight of Glory, and the edition I’m reading includes an introduction by Walter Hooper, Lewis’s assistant during his final days. He shares biographical insights I have not read elsewhere, and then, of course, Lewis’s incredible essays follow.

Capture

Desiring God very graciously shared an article that I wrote from the gleanings of one of our more challenging seasons of parenting. Based on John 17, it’s a call to prayer for our teens, and a reminder that when parents pray over an open Bible, the words of Scripture wrap themselves around the desires of our hearts and give us the words we don’t have. While you’re there, be sure to take advantage of their many helpful resources.

The Gardening Life

My basement shelves are filling up with shiny jars of spaghetti sauce, pickles, relish, green beans, salsa, and canned tomatoes. Much to the delight of our adorable grandson, we’re growing a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes this year, and in addition to squirreling away the bounty, it’s been a delight to have plenty to share with family and friends.

Around the Dining Room Table

The youngest son and I have already resumed the daily routine of homeschooling. This will be my last round of algebra and chemistry, and since he’s taking his English at the local community college, someone else will be singing the praises of the Oxford comma with him this year. God has used the rhythms and routines of homeschooling to speak patience into this flibbertigibbet of a soul with the reality that school happens one day, one subject at a time, and the thick textbook that looks so intimidating in September is conquered by showing up and doing the few things required on any given day.

Standing with you in the freedom of the struggle,

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase any of the books mentioned in this recap post, simply click on the image below, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers. And for these month-end posts, I’m always happy to visit Leigh and Emily! Join me there?

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Two Reasons to Give the Church Another Chance

When my husband and I were still a “young couple,” we used to laugh over an imagined scenario at our church:

“What ever happened to that young couple with all the boys?”

“Haven’t you heard?  They divorced – someone said that they just grew apart, that they didn’t know each other anymore.”

“No!  They were here at church all the time!  How could something like that have happened?”

Truly, it’s not funny, but we laughed because we knew that even though our church family loved us,  if we had said, “Yes,” to all the ministry opportunities that were pressed upon us,  it wouldn’t be long before this was our fate.  Fortunately, we were able to remember their love for us as we made decisions to become the guardians of our own margins and boundaries.

For many people, the church has a reputation to overcome.  It’s hard to trust The Body when you’ve been burned by its members.  For various reasons,  believers are staying home on Sunday mornings, and the experts say that only 20% of Americans attend church regularly.  Certainly, anyone who has done time in the pew can find a reason to gripe:  lack of appreciation; not liking the pastor/the music/the sermons/the color of the carpet; unsatisfying or turbulent relationships.   All of this should be no surprise to us, for even the healthiest, most vibrant fellowships are populated with . . .  well, sinners.  There’s really no one else to come to church!

I’m over at The Perennial Gen today making a case for giving the church another chance–even if you feel as if you’ve been burned in the past. Ponder the wisdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and then click on over to read the post in its entirety:

“The Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him.  He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself . . .”

Please join the discussion over at The Perennial Gen, and I do look forward to reading your thoughts on the church gathered and the role it has played in your spiritual formation.


Many thanks to Jen Ferguson for the lovely image.

Subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

A Higher Education

To the already stunning list of monikers on the Dietrich Bonhoeffer resume — pastor, martyr, spy, author, faithful brother — Paul R. House has added another:  theological educator.  In Bonhoeffer’s Seminary Vision, the author has fulfilled the promise of his subtitle by making A Case for Costly Grace in higher theological education, but there is more on the agenda as well.  I have not attended seminary (not to make a virtue of ignorance), but I found House’s book to be immensely practical on four levels:

  1. Whether or not one has read Life Together or The Cost of Discipleship, House has created a companion volume for these books (as well as some of Bonhoeffer’s lesser known writing), that will either serve as a guide for a first time reader or as a tool for enhanced appreciation of these classic works.  Written during his five year tenure as a seminary educator in Nazi Germany (1935-1940), the principles in these practical and deeply theological works were formulated in the crucible of preparing ten separate groups of students for pastoral ministry under hostile conditions.  Far from being the prototype for a Protestant monasticism in Germany, Bonhoeffer’s practices were a means to the end of shaping shepherds to “lead communities of costly grace.”
  2. For those with the delightful option of attending seminary in the future, Bonhoeffer’s Seminary Vision will provide an enhanced check-list for weighing the merits of various schools.  The prospective student, counting the cost on every level, may find that Bonhoeffer’s students displayed a degree of commitment that will encourage the formation of iron in their own souls.  For example, of the approximately 180 students who trained under Bonhoeffer at the seminary level, 27 spent time in prison for their faith; most were denied positions or lost existing salaries because of their association with the Confessing Church’s seminary; most were drafted and sent into the heaviest areas of fighting.  A few relevant criteria to ponder based on Bonhoeffer’s model:  Will this institution help me to become a Bible-formed pastor?  Is the educational experience provided there a visible expression of the body of Christ?
  3. Individuals and churches who are influential in the formation of seminary curriculum and educational philosophy will want to give long deliberation to the questions Paul House raises and the biblical answers he suggests.  He recommends that the body of Christ rethink the CEO model for pastors in favor of a shepherding leader.  He questions whether the concept of distance education aided by technology can truly provide a community of faith that will result in pastoral formation.  He contrasts Bonhoeffer’s incarnational method with the predominant “industrial model” of today.
  4. House, Bonhoeffer, and Zechariah the prophet have spoken, and I have been rebuked for “despising the day of small things” in my own ministry.  One of the best things I do all week is to sit down in the church library on Sunday morning with a group of women who are there to learn the Word of God.  It’s a small space, so it’s full with a half-dozen of us, and I have wondered if my work of study and preparation is a good investment.  Is this meager response, or is this an opportunity to build well into the lives of an intimate group?  I am encouraged by my reading of Bonhoeffer’s Seminary Vision to view that time as an opportunity to participate in “preserving a cross-bearing community” in our harsh world through common prayer and serious study.  My prayers for my students will now include the words “rigorous thought” and “rigorous practice.”

True to Bonhoeffer’s vision on every level, Paul R. House advocates for a weighty and refreshing ecclesiology, supporting the truth that the training of pastors, yes — but also the training of every Christian in a life of costly grace is “worthy of our ultimate commitment.”


This book was provided by Crossway in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

If you are new to the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, I highly recommend Eric Metaxas’s excellent biography.  For my review of the student edition, click here.

Subscribe to get regular updates and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link up with these communities on a regular basis:  Soli Deo Gloria Connections, Inspire Me Mondays, Good Morning Mondays, Soul Survival, Testimony Tuesday, Titus 2 Tuesday, Tell His Story, Coffee for Your Heart, Live Free Thursdays, Faith-Filled Fridays, Grace and Truth, Fellowship Friday, Still Saturday, The Weekend Brew, Sunday Stillness, Faith and Fellowship, Blessing Counters, Women with Intention, Sharing His Beauty, Monday Musings, Motivate and Rejuvenate Monday, Thought Provoking Thursday, Small Wonder, A Little R & R, Beloved Brews, SusanBMead, Faith Along the Way

Bonhoeffer Remembered

Seventy years ago, on April 9, 1945, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed by the Nazis for his role in the German resistance movement against the Hitler regime.  At age 39, he left behind a fiancée, his parents, and several siblings, but even more significant are his legacy of courage and his sound theological reasoning which live on.  These have been preserved for us by Eric Metaxas in a weighty biography that was released in 2011.  I was among those who couldn’t wait to read Bonhoeffer:  Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, and it did not disappoint.  This well-researched and compelling chronicle of Bonhoeffer’s life is now available in a student edition, visually enhanced by side bars and charts that underscore critical life lessons and give solid historical underpinnings to the narrative.  The timelines at the beginning of each chapter anchor Bonhoeffer’s milestones alongside events that resulted from Hitler’s political shenanigans, leading up to World War II, and then the gradual downfall of the Third Reich.

Readers age nine and up will be inspired by God’s work in the preparation of Dietrich Bonhoeffer for the role he fulfilled, and by Bonhoeffer’s courageous acts to strengthen the church in Germany, to resist Hitler’s schemes, and to build into the lives of the next generation of young pastors.  Brilliantly, Metaxas emphasizes discipleship, challenging his young readers with lessons derived from the costly grace that carried Bonhoeffer and led him to write The Cost of Discipleship.  The topics are both profound and practical:

1.  What does it mean to be a disciple?
2.  The true believer practices bold acts of kindness.
3.  Practicing spiritual disciplines will grow your spiritual muscles.
4.  Christians can be a light in dark times.
5.  Words of comfort and hope will encourage others.

I can hardly wait to share this book with my youngest son, because it holds a terrific surprise!  Just as the Bonhoeffer family encoded secret messages within books to communicate with Dietrich during his imprisonment, the Student Edition of Bonhoeffer has a secret code for readers to decipher!  This is an example of the exemplary work that Metaxas has done in bringing the account of Bonhoeffer’s experiences to a younger audience.  Dietrich’s life, although set in an era of widespread suffering and characterized by continual interference with his personal and professional goals, was unexpectedly joyful and productive.  I would describe it as an “indescribable” reading experience, but Bonhoeffer would protest:

“If you take enough trouble to make a thing clear, I think there is very little that is really ‘indescribable.'”

Eric Metaxas has taken the trouble, and the result is a very clear picture of a life that stands today, seventy years after Bonhoeffer’s death, to confirm the truth that he believed and taught:

“We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated.  We do not know what to do, but we do not give up the hope of living.  We are persecuted, but God does not leave us.  We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed.  We carry the death of Jesus in our own bodies so that the life of Jesus can also be seen in our bodies.”  —  II Corinthians 4:8-10 NCV

This book was provided by Thomas Nelson through BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Subscribe to get regular updates and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link up with these communities on a regular basis:  Soli Deo Gloria Connections, Inspire Me Mondays, Good Morning Mondays, Soul Survival, Testimony Tuesday, Titus 2 Tuesday, Tell His Story, Coffee for Your Heart, Live Free Thursdays, Faith-Filled Fridays, Grace and Truth, Fellowship Friday, Still Saturday, The Weekend Brew, Sunday Stillness, Faith and Fellowship, Blessing Counters, Women with Intention, Sharing His Beauty, Monday Musings, Motivate and Rejuvenate Monday, Thought Provoking Thursday, Small Wonder, A Little R & R, Beloved Brews, SusanBMead, Faith Along the Way